M v UN and Belgium

JurisdictionBélgica
CourtCivil Tribunal (Belgium)
Belgium, Civil Tribunal of Brussels.
M.
and
Organisation des Nations Unies and tat Belge (Ministre des Affaires trangres).
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION AND ADMINISTRATION

International organization The United Nations Legal capacity of Whether a sovereign power Right to appear in legal proceedings Immunity from jurisdiction Basis of immunity United Nations Charter (Articles 104 and 105) Convention on Privileges and Immunities, 1946 (Section 2) Whether immunity thereunder limited by Article 105 Whether United Nations enjoys only such immunities as are necessary for fulfilment of its purposes Wrongful acts of soldiers of U.N. Force in Congo Effect of Section 29 of Convention Creation by United Nations of courts for settlement of private disputes Whether failure to create such courts a breach of Article 10 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, and Article 6 of European Convention for Protection of Human Rights, 1950 Whether immunity of United Nations conditional on creation of courts Rights of individual against United Nations Legal effect of Universal Declaration Whether European Convention binding on United Nations The law of Belgium.

Jurisdiction Exemptions from International organizations The United Nations Basis and nature of immunity Whether general and unconditional Charter, Article 105 Convention on Privileges and Immunities, 1946 Wrongful acts of soldiers of U.N. Force in the Congo The law of Belgium.

The individual in international law Position of Human rights and freedoms Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 European Convention for Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 1950 Right of access to impartial and independent tribunal Rights of individual against United Nations Whether immunity from jurisdiction conditional on creation of courts for settlement of private disputes Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, 1946 (Section 29) Legal effect of Universal Declaration Whether European Convention binding on United Nations The law of Belgium.

Summary: The facts.On 29 January 1962 property in the Congo belonging to the plaintiff, a Belgian subject, was burnt and looted by troops of the United Nations Force there. On 10 January 1963 the plaintiff lodged a claim against the United Nations for compensation for the loss he had suffered, which he then estimated at 3,799,675 francs. At first the U.N. disputed the facts of the claim, but after intercessions by the Belgian Government it declared that it was prepared to accept financial liability where the damage is the result of action taken by agents of the United Nations in violation of the laws of war and the rules of international law.

On 7 May 1965 the Belgian Parliament passed a Law approving an agreement reached on 20 February of that year between the United Nations and Belgium whereby the Secretary-General of the United Nations agreed that, without prejudice to the privileges and immunities which the U.N. enjoyed, he would pay the Belgian Government the sum of one million five hundred thousand U.S. dollars in an outright and final settlement of all claims brought against the U.N. by Belgian nationals on account of damage to persons and property resulting from the operations of the United Nations Force in the Congo. This sum was to be apportioned according to a list of the individual claims for which the U.N. accepted liability, drawn up by its own authorities. On 18 October 1965 the Minister wrote to the plaintiff informing him that his name was on this list with a figure of 100,000 francs, and that the Belgian Government was prepared to pay him, out of the U.N. settlement payment, a total of 140,000 francs. Acceptance of this sum would not prevent him from receiving additional compensation from the Belgian State under a Law of 14 April 1965. However, both the latter Law and that of 7 May 1965 provided that any person who accepted compensation thereunder thereby waived all further rights of action against the United Nations. The plaintiff refused to accept these terms and brought the present action, claiming jointly and severally against the U.N. and the Belgian State a total sum of 6,119,350 francs. The U.N. pleaded immunity from the jurisdiction of the Court.

Held: that the plea to the jurisdiction must succeed.

(1) By Article 104 of the United Nations Charter (approved in Belgium by the Law of 14 December 1945) The Organization shall enjoy in the territory of each of its Members such legal capacity as may be necessary for the exercise of its functions Thus the U.N. was competent to appear in legal proceedings in Belgium.

(2) By Article 105 of the Charter The Organization shall enjoy in the territory of each of its Members such privileges and immunities as are necessary for the fulfilment of its purposes, but these latter did not include acts of the kind complained of by the plaintiff. However, Section 2 (Article 11) of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, approved by the General Assembly on 13 February 1946 (and in Belgium by the Law of 28 August 1948) gave the United Nations immunity from jurisdiction except in so far as the latter had expressly waived such immunity in a particular case. The scope of this provision was not limited by the less widely drawn Article 105 of the Charter. There was no question of conflict between the two provisions. The United Nations had thus been given absolute and general immunity from jurisdiction, and the plaintiff had produced no proof that it had expressly agreed to waive it in this particular case.

(3) However, Section 29 of the Convention on Privileges and Immunities laid down that the United Nations was to provide for appropriate methods of settlement for the private law disputes to which it might be a party, which would normally include setting up courts to decide such disputes. This, however, had not been done and there was in fact no independent and impartial international court before which the plaintiff could have brought the U.N. to have the present claim decided. It was quite untrue to say, as the U.N. contended, that the procedure it had adopted in the present case...

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